Who does not love a wildflower? While not every wildflower enthusiast is a gardener, every gardener I know is a wildflower enthusiast at some level.
I chatted recently with Linnea Hanson, former Forest Botanist and now Ecosystems Manager for the Plumas National Forest and Chris Christofferson, District Botanist for the Forest about the enduring appeal of wildflowers. “I am just a sucker for a pretty face – who isn’t?” said Chris. “Wildflowers sport fabulous blooms and so many of them smell so great! I can’t resist them.” Linnea went on to say, “The spring wildflower bloom is so exciting – when you have lived in the same area for a long time, you mark your internal seasonal clock by the wildflowers’ blooming – it’s like seeing old friends again and as you walk or drive through the region you want to call out – ‘Oh, hi! The Tidy tips are out’ or ‘Look – the fiddleheads have returned!’ And it makes you happy.” Photo: Fiddlenecks (Amsinckia menziesii var. intermedia in March.)
Wildflowers start to bloom in force in the lower elevations of our region in late February and early March and keep on going through June, July and August in the higher elevations. According to Julie Nelson, Forest Botanist for the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, “The low elevation stuff is popping. Clikapudi Trail on the south side of Shasta Lake has beaucoup shooting stars (Dodecatheon hendersonii), hound’s tongue (Cynoglossum grande, one of my all-time favorites), goldback fern (Pentagramma triangularis), osoberry (Oemleria cerasiformis) and toothwort (Cardamine californica) to name a few.” Photo: Coast Boykinia (Boykinia occidentalis).
In the coming weeks, the North State will host many entertaining and educational events for learning more about and enjoying the wildflowers of our region.
Perhaps one of the reasons we love wildflowers is that they are not necessarily easy to grow or desirable in your home garden, and so their beauty is that much more fleeting and precious. With this in mind, as wildflower season continues, make sure to follow the common-sense rules best summarized as: “Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footsteps – and those should generally be on the trail!” Further, pay attention and be observant so that you can avoid encounters that might detract from your wildflower viewing: always bring water, sunscreen, good shoes and appropriate clothing – raincoat, hat, gloves, etc. Keep your eyes open for poison oak and spring creatures such as rattlesnakes and bears that might be waking up. Photo: Buttercup (Ranunculus).
Finally, while picking wildflowers might be your first instinct, think again and leave the flowers where they are to bring beauty to the next viewers, feed the pollinators and continue to build the plant communities we love. If you want to have some of these gorgeous plants and flowers for yourself, purchase them from a reputable seller or grower such as your local garden center or nursery or better yet at one of our regional California Native Plant Society Plant Sale fundraisers, such as the Mt. Lassen chapter’s Wildflower Art Show and Plant Sale in Chico on April 19 – see below for information about regional events, workshops, and great wildflower viewing sites throughout our amazing North State. Photo: Douglas Lupine (Lupinus nanus).
Look through the events, classes, workshops and good wildflower viewing sites listed below and – Let the Show Begin!
Upcoming Events and Classes: (chronologically)
o Shasta College Class Wildflowers of California (BOT 50 Section 2343) March 16 through April 27, Mondays, 6-8:50 pm. Learn to identify our local wildflowers along with examining their structural characteristics. Two field trips are planned to observe these beautiful flowers in their natural settings and to reinforce sight identification. Instructor: James Nelson. For more info, click here. Photo: A single Buttercup (Ranunculus) on a rocky outcropping.
o Friends of the Chico Herbarium Name that Wildflower! Workshop, March 28, led by Linnea Hanson and Jenny Marr. Will include some classroom instruction and some field work around Horseshoe Lake in Upper Bidwell Park, Chico. Students might see Twining Brodiaea (Dichelostemma volubile), Lupine Bicolor (Lupinus bicolor), Yellow Violets (Viola praemorsa), Ithuriel’s spear (Triteleia laxa), Yellow Carpet (Blennosperma nannum) and goldfields (Lasthenia californica). For the $35 entrance fee, you get a full day of training AND the Peterson Field Guide to Wildflowers of the Pacific States – an outstanding value. For more info, click here. Photo: Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum) in Chico’s Upper Bidwell Park in March.
o General Meeting for the Mt. Lassen Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, – April 2, 7:30 pm. Chris Christofferson will present a talk on Burning Bear Grass for California Indian Basketweavers. Butte County Library, Chico. More info: Gerry Ingco: 530-893-5123.
o 3rd Annual Wildflower & Nature Festival at Riverbend Park in Oroville April 4 & 5, 10-4 p.m. each day. This two-day festival will feature educational booths and tables hosted by the agencies whose task it is to manage the many land resources in our region – including education people about wildflowers and helping viewers to better enjoy and protect these treasures. Guided hikes on Table Mountain and to Feather Falls will be offered as well as Plant Sales, Wildlife Art, Barbeque and much more. And I have heard that Smokey the Bear just might be there! For more info: frrpd.com. Photo: Iconic California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) blooming along a roadway in Chico in March.
o Mount Lassen Chapter of the CNPS Wildflower Plant Sale and Art Show! April 19 CARD CENTER, CHICO, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Mount Lassen Chapter of the CNPS Wildflower Plant Sale and Art Show! is the major Biennial Fundraiser for the Mount Lassen chapter of the CNPS. Over 200 species of plants from local plant communities will be labeled and on display for you to see. Deb Yau, owner of Native Springs Nursery in Yankee Hill, is in charge of the Native Plant Sale aspect of this event and tells me, “This is a sale NOT to miss. It will feature treasures grown by members and local nurseries – things you won’t see other places. You will be able to grow in your own garden some of the gorgeous wildflowers you love in the wild – and you will be supporting your garden’s diversity, the Mount Lassen chapter of CNPS, and native plant and pollinator populations! It’s a win-win-win.” The Native Plant Art Show will feature photographs, paintings and other art by regional artists depicting the wildflowers of our region. Educational Displays will have information about invasive and rare plants. Books, posters, t-shirts, and more will be for sale. Plant Experts will be on hand for your enjoyment and Nature Walks, and Children’s Activities will round out the activities. For more info Contact: Ellen Copeland: 530-345-1826. Photo: California Fuschia (Epilobium canum; syn. Zauschneria californica) at the McConnell Arboretum and Gardens in August.
o Cal Native Plant Soc Mt. Lassen Chapter General Meeting May 2, 7:30 p.m. with presentation on Managing Rare Plant Communities on Serpentine outcrops with Linnea Hanson. Butte County Library, Chico. More info: Gerry Ingco: 530-893-5123. Photo: Pipevine (Aristolochia californica) in bloom in lower Bidwell Park in Chico in February.
Good wildflower viewing sites throughout the season include: (generally listed moving from the south to the north)
– Table Mountain, which is in full swing now through April, and Feather Falls, which is just beginning now but should be in full swing in April, are both near Oroville and are great walk/hikes open to the public year round. Follow these links for maps and hike descriptions: http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/plumas/publications/pdfs/hiking/fr_featherfalls_infomap.pdf; http://www.calphoto.com/clcwl/table.pdf. Photo: Wild Cucumber or Common Manroot (Marah fabaceus) twines through grass and scrub.
– Near Lake Oroville, The Potter’s Ravine Trail should be in bloom now through April and early May.
– Lumpkin Ridge Road – further up in the Plumas-National Forest and east of Oroville, west of Quincy – should be in full bloom in May and “The Harlequin Lupine (Lupinus stiversii) will knock your socks off,” Chris Christofferson said.
– Rim Road above Concow is a rare plant community habitat on serpentine outcroppings and is a good place to watch fire recovery in action after last year’s fires. Photo: Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) along a damp embankment in late February.
– Magalia – all along the Skyway provides great views over wildflower meadows and oak habitat.
– Bidwell Park in Chico: Horsehoe Lake and Trails in Upper Bidwell Park as well as most of Lower Bidwell park will be good wildflower viewing March – early May.
– Vina Plains Preserve is managed by the Nature Conservancy and they often host wildflower tours in spring. The site is home to more than 280 species of plants and you should see Adobe Lily (Fritillaria pluriflora). Because Vina Plains Preserve is a working ranch, it is open to the public on a very limited basis. For more information, call (530) 527-4261. Photo: Butter and Eggs (Triphysaria eriantha) blooming en masse in Upper Bidwell Park in Chico in March.
– The Sacramento River Bend Area, just north of Red Bluff, offers spectacular wildflower displays throughout the spring. Vast vistas of yellow and purple fields are common during a springtime hike along the Yana trail. Contact the Redding Field Office at (530) 224-2100 for more information.
– Sacramento River Trail in and around Redding – runs through part of the McConnell Arboretum and Gardens.
– Shasta Lake Clikapudi Trail on the south side of Shasta Lake is a good place to watch fire recovery in action–it burned several years ago in the Bear Fire. Here’s a link to a trail map:http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/shastatrinity/documents/st-main/maps/rogs/shasta-lake/trails.pdf. Photo: Tidy tips (Layia fremontii) in March.
– Blue Door Flat – northeast California, south of Alturas. “The Blue Door Flat area provides an interesting area to watch waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds, as well as colorful wildflowers… in spring the meadow provides a fantastic array of color…” Contact the Alturas Field Office at (530) 233-4666.
– Later in the season, Waters Gulch and Squaw Valley Creek are good–see
http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/regions/pacificsouthwest/SquawValley/index.shtml Photo: Star-Lily (Zigadenus fremontii).
– Also later in the season – Bunker Hill Ridge on the Pacific Crest Trail should be in full bloom June/July. The trail around Little Grass Valley Reservoir provides a great view of the lake and the wildflowers in June/July.
Some great resources for learning about and identifying Wildflowers include the USDA Forest Service’s online resource Celebrating Wildflowers with in-depth discussions of issues facing wildflowers and other native plants, Children’s activities and teaching resources – check it out: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers Photo: Butter and Eggs (Triphysaria eriantha), Star-Lily (Zigadenus fremontii) and intermittent Tidy tips (Layia fremontii) light up a damp March meadow in the North State.
Many good books for about western and regional wildflowers are in publication – most of which are available at your local library, local books stores such as Lyons Books in Chico, and many should be available for purchase at the CNPS Mt. Lassen Chapter Wildflower Plant Sale and Art Show! On April 19th at the CARD center in Chico:
Peterson Field Guide Pacific States Wildflowers, Theodore F. Neihaus & Charles L. Ripper, Copyright 1998.
National Audobon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers Western Region, Richard Spellenberg, Copyright 2001 Knopf Publishing.
Wildflowers of Table Mountain, Butte County, California? by Samantha Mackey and Albin Bills, illustrated by Larry Jansen, Copyright 2004, CSU Chico Studies from the Herbarium.
Wildflowers of Nevada and Placer Counties, California, Copyright 2007, Redbud Chapter of the California Native Plant Society.
In a North State Garden is a radio- and web-based outreach program of the Northern California Natural History Museum, in Chico, Calif. The mission of In a North State Garden is to celebrate the art, craft and science of home gardening in California’s North State region. The program is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved. To read more from In A North State Garden or to listen to the podcasts aired on Northstate Public Radio KCHO/KFPR radio, click on jewellgarden.com.